On second anniversary of Dobbs, Ruiz introduces legislative package to bolster women’s health care rights

The idea starts with a simple statement: The right to make decisions over your own body, life and future, without coercion or violence, is a basic human right.

New Jersey has long been one of the strongest and most progressive states when it comes to protecting a woman’s right to choose (in 2022, the state enacted the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act), but, on the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that took away this right to choose on a national level (putting the decision into the hands of state legislatures), state Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) introduced a series of bills to help further codified the right for women to determine their health care needs in New Jersey.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz. (File photos)

“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision and its impact nationally, now more than ever, we must continue to protect reproductive health care and bodily autonomy rights,” she said. “Every individual deserves the right to make decisions about their own body, life and future without interference or fear.

“Our new legislative package reaffirms our commitment to ensuring these fundamental human rights are upheld and protected for generations to come. These measures will ensure that all individuals have the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies and futures. Together, we will continue to lead the nation in upholding and advancing reproductive health care and bodily autonomy rights.”

The Reproductive Freedom and Health Equity Bill Package includes:

  • S3490: Codifies authority for certain health care providers to provide abortions and clarifies certain operational requirements for abortion facilities;
  • S3452: Requires health insurance and Medicaid coverage for reproductive health care services; prohibits adverse actions by medical malpractice insurers in relation to performance of health care services;
  • S3491: Secures protections for patients and providers accessing and providing legally protected health care activities; establishes right of residents to legally protected health care services, which are restricted in other states;
  • S3492: Creates “Reproductive Health Care Access Fund” to strengthen access to reproductive health care; makes appropriation;
  • S3493: Requires affirmative written consent for certain entities to disclose individuals’ medical information regarding reproductive health care services, with limited exceptions, unless disclosure is necessary to provide those services;
  • S3494: Requires four-year public institutions of higher education to develop and implement reproductive health services plan; requires county colleges to develop referral network for reproductive health care services;
  • S3495: Establishes Reproductive Health Care Professionals Loan Redemption Program; appropriates $5 million;
  • S3496: Provides for voluntary contributions for taxpayers on gross income tax returns to support reproductive health care services;
  • S1513: Requires Medicaid to cover emergency contraception without requiring a prescription or other authorization.

Ruiz said the bills are more important than ever.

Since Dobbs, 14 states have made a woman’s right to choose illegal, with additional states severely restricting women’s rights, leaving millions without access to health care.

“That is why, in New Jersey, our work must continue to hedge and shield the rights of New Jerseyans for generations to come, irrespective of how the political winds blow,” she said. “Today, we thank and lock arms with our colleagues such as Planned Parenthood, Garden State Equality, ACLU and the members of the THRIVE coalition to introduce eight new bills and S1513 under the Reproductive Freedom and Health Equity bill package that will further strengthen reproductive and bodily autonomy rights in our state, ensuring that our children are not faced with the reality of fewer rights than generations prior.

Ruiz has a supporter in Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Clark).

“Protecting reproductive rights and ensuring health equity are fundamental principles that drive our legislative efforts in New Jersey,” he said. “I am proud to stand alongside Sen. Ruiz and my colleagues in advancing reproductive autonomy and access to essential health care services for all New Jersey residents.”

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill.

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) is aiming to do her part in Congress.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and many feel the Republicans are pursuing a nationwide abortion ban, Sherrill has unveiled a plan of action to restore abortion rights in the military, through courts and in the states, including:

  • Abortion rights for servicewomen: Sherrill has led the charge to protect reproductive health care for American servicewomen. She introduced the Access to Reproductive Care for Servicemembers Act, which would codify portions of current Department of Defense policy, which guarantees military leave and travel cost reimbursements for service members denied abortion care where they are stationed. Sherrill is fighting for legislation to defend against efforts to enact a nation abortion ban, enshire abortion rights into federal law and protect access to contraception, including:
  • STOP Comstock Act: When the Comstock Act first banned abortion in 1873 — more than 150 years ago — women didn’t even have the right to vote. Now, following the Supreme Court decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, Sherrill took action by supporting this bill to repeal portions of the Comstock Act that could be used to implement a national abortion ban with no exceptions.
  • Women’s Health Protection Act: Sherrill signed onto this legislation that will codify the right to an abortion in federal law. She helped pass the legislation through the House in September 2021 and again in July 2022, but the Senate did not take action prior to the end of the 117th Congress. In June 2023, Sherrill signed a discharge petition that, with 218 signatures, would force a vote on the legislation in the Republican-controlled House.